HBCU Free Laptop Deals a Necessity in COVID-19 Recruitment Wars, and Presidents 'Don't Rush'

HBCUs Gain Exposure Through Free Laptop Partnerships

Several HBCUs have made headlines in recent weeks with partnerships yielding free technology to first-year and continuing students.

Edward Waters College’s new agreement with Follett Educational Group will provide all incoming first-year students with Google Chromebooks and open-source course materials.

“We are beyond ecstatic to have the support and commitment of Follett Higher Education Group President Roe J. McFarlane and the entire Follett team as a collaborative partner in our institutions continuing effort to provide an affordable, relevant, and high quality educational experience for the students we are blessed to serve” said Edward Waters College President and CEO, Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr.

Tennessee State University received donations to furnish laptops and tablets to students with demonstrated need in order to finish courses online. From a release:

She said the university received donations to purchase more than 20 laptops and 20 tablets. One of the contributions was $25,000 from Fifth Third Bank.

 “To be competitive, both academically and for future work, they’ve got to have a digital device,” said Hosetta Coleman, senior vice president, university relations at Fifth Third Bank. “You look at our world, this whole virtual paradigm. If our communities are not ready for a digital environment, they have one more factor that makes them less competitive against others.”

Free laptops have been a staple of HBCU student recruitment and support for the last decade, but have been a significant element of recruitment during the coronavirus pandemic. In the growing competition for students among all colleges and universities, and the freefalling ability for those students to afford college and associated costs, schools speaking the language of affordability have better chances of treading water in a shallow talent pool. From a recent survey courtesy of Art & Science:

As we found in a similar study in March, 1 out of 6 of students who planned before coronavirus to be a full-time student at a 4-year institution no longer plan to do so.  (In fact, 40% of those students had already made a deposit at a college or university.)  An additional 2/3 of students have some concern about being able to attend their first-choice institution.

In all, 12% of students who have already made a deposit reported they no longer plan to attend a 4-year college full time. This makes it clear that making a deposit is likely a less reliable gauge of student commitment than traditional models would suggest.



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